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Darden Sustainability Report: Restaurant Energy Use Drops 2.3%

Darden, which runs restaurant chains including Olive Garden, LongHorn Steakhouse and Red Lobster, cut its average energy use per restaurant by 2.3 percent from 2010 to 2011, according to the company’s latest sustainability report.

The company’s average restaurant used 1,664 MWh of energy in 2010, compared to 1,627 MWh in 2011. Since 2008, when the group’s average annual restaurant energy use was 1,765 MWh, Darden has cut the metric by 7.9 percent, putting it over halfway to achieving its 2015 goal of a 15 percent decrease over 2008 levels.

However, the company’s total annual energy use rose almost one percent year-on-year from 3.01 million MWh to 3.03 million MWh, the report said. Since 2008 the company has seen a 2.1 percent increase in its absolute energy use but increased its number of restaurants by almost 200.

Darden is piloting energy management systems at 10 restaurants and gaining information on how to retrofit its roughly 1,200 older restaurants to be what it calls “smarter, more energy efficient buildings.” The company is replacing all front of house lighting in its restaurants with LEDs, a project that should save about 40,000 kWh per year.

Darden also says it uses the most energy-efficient appliances available in its kitchens, which are often Energy Star rated. It also uses the highest seasonal energy efficiency ratio-rated HVAC rooftop equipment, the report says.

The company’s report does not supply absolute or normalized figures for its total greenhouse gas emissions but it does break down where its emissions came from in 2011. Last year, 67.81 percent of the group’s emissions came from electricity, 29.04 percent came from natural gas use, refrigerants accounted for 1.84 percent and transportation made up the remaining 1.31 percent.

Last year a 1.1 MW solar array went online on the roof of the company’s Restaurant Support Center in Orlando, Fla. It should supply around 18 percent of energy needs for the facility, which is Energy Star-certified. In 2010, the company began rolling out green building prototypes for Red Lobster, Olive Garden and LongHorn Steakhouse, enabling all new restaurants to align with LEED certification.

Between 2008 and 2011, Darden reduced its aggregated, per-restaurant water usage by 16.9 percent, from 3,342 kgal to 2,775 kgal. This means that Darden has exceeded it 2015 target of a 15 percent reduction over 2008 levels, conserving more than 1 billion gallons of water since 2008. From 2010 to 2011 the company reduced its aggregated, per-restaurant water usage by around 3.6 percent.

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